Thursday, May 3, 2012

Pastors who are forced out

***Disclaimer*** This in no way is indicative of my current situation at New Life Fellowship.  These are just interesting facts about the American Church at large**** 

Christianity Today had an interesting overview of Pastor/Church conflicts and what was likely to cause a pastor to be forced out of a Church.  Here are some of the statistics:

  • Churches with a sermon length of 11-20 mins were twice as likely as others to have a conflict leading to the pastor leaving
  • Churches where 90% or more of the regular attendees are women have a 1 in 5 chance to have had a fight that led to a leader leaving
  • Female-led churches are nearly twice as likely to have a conflict where the pastor leaves.
  • Churches where the pastor is under 30 had a 29% chance it lost it's pastor in the last 2 years due to conflict
  • Churches where 75%-85% of the church is over 60 years old were 3 times more likely than average to have had a conflict in which the pastor left.
  • Churches with no adults over 35 where more likely to have a pastor leave in conflict when compared to the churches with the over 60 crowd.
  • Half of the churches where 56%-75% of the people earned less than $25k had a pastor leave due to conflict.
  • Churches where over 75% of the congregation earned less than $25k were far less likely to have conflict leading to the pastor leaving when compared to the average.
Here are some other interesting (and alarming) statistics:

  •  76% of pastors surveyed reported being forced out of a church at least once.  76%?!?!?!?!
  • 20% have been forced out twice
  • 4% three or more times
3 out of 4 pastors have been forced out of a Church?  Interestingly enough that also corresponds perfectly with another number... 75%, the burnout rate for pastors.  3 out of 4 people who join the ministry quit to never pick it back up again.

Church denominations/backgrounds most likely to force a pastor out (according to data given by pastors who have been forced out):
  1. Pentecostal
  2. Non-denominational
  3. Methodist
  4. Baptist
  5. Lutheran
Church denominations/backgrounds most likely to force a pastor out (according to data given by churches who have forced a pastor out):
  1. Presbyterian/Reformed
  2. Pentecostal
  3. Non-denominational
  4. Lutheran
  5. Baptist
 There is something seriously wrong with American church culture.  We can't keep the majority of our youth in church and we keep forcing our pastors out of church.  We're simultaneously cutting off our legs and our head.  Some of this problem I think breaks down to poor pastor training.  Most pastors are not adequately trained for the job particularly in the cultural skills needed for today's churches.  Most seminaries will give the scholarly elements required for a pastor's theology but cannot teach leadership, and they don't even do a good job at teaching proficient homiletics (the art of preaching).  But by in large we must admit that church culture is relatively toxic for pastors.

A consumerist mindset that is absolutely rampant in the Church causes pastors not to be shepherds (which is what the word "pastor" means) but rather entertainers.  When large portions of the church are interested only in being served and not actually serving, then many pastors become successful only when they are able to craft an entertaining organization that keeps people interested enough to come back for more.  Since most men don't make good entertainers (at least good enough to make a living at it) many would be pastors (75% of them) go into the ministry thinking about shepherding but leave disillusioned and broken because they weren't proficient leaders and entertainers.  Most pastors aren't able to garnish the necessary skills and people required to run an organization that keeps people coming back for more.  Since there's always a better church down the street with better music, better preaching, and better programs for the kids... most pastors simply can't compete in the Church marketplace.

Ironically what ends up happening is not that everyone leaves their church to go to another one, but some of the people who belonged to the church before the pastor arrived get frustrated that "their" church isn't as successful as others or as successful as it once was.  So then some of them begin to question and second guess the pastor's decisions and work.  You'd be surprised, it takes relatively few people in a church to force a pastor out.  5 - 7 people who are important to the congregation can make life a living hell for the pastor, either by holding positions of authority over the pastor or by influencing other members to either be actively against the pastor or (more likely) silent in their support of the pastor.

Now clearly their are some bad pastors out their.  Some pastors need to be removed from churches!  Some pastors have bad theology, terrible sermons/lessons, are tyrants in office, or have major moral failures.  Those pastors should be actively opposed and deposed.  But I think it's a far stretch to say that's true of 76% of them.

I think it's time that the Church membership re-evaluate their expectations and treatment of pastors.  However the grave irony is that those who need to, probably won't see this post.

1 comment:

  1. I believe that a pastor being force our and a church split are very similar in the minutia of events that predicated the event. The past churches that I have attended I have seen several churches split. I was directly involved with one church split and the experience was so distasteful that I swore never to be apart of another one. I am sure that many events cause both proceedings but it seems to me that there is a lynchpin that will start the domino effect toward that end. That lynchpin is, “Who owns the church that you attend!”
    Does God own that church or do the prominent parishioners own the church? If you have men believing that they are responsible for a church then you have man ownership and you will have judgments made by man and some where down the road a pastor is be forced out or a bad church split will occur. Fact is that people with dire leadership fill most positions of leadership. Good leadership is hard to find because good leadership is hard work. Most people who are in positions of leadership are “control freaks” that will control a church to their will, will change a church to what they want it to be; or they are people thrown in the position and are trying to treading water because they are in over their heads. If you have people in leadership that believe that God owns the church and they are responsible for the stewardship of the church and the need to serve God through service to the fellowship then you have a leadership on solid ground.
    Chris Seal, USN Retire.